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Response to Professor Tian's Class

Hilary_Brashear's picture

When Professor Tian showed us the earlier forms of music notation with the neums next to to the more modern form with five staffs, I was once again reminded of Haraway.  The modern version of notation was an abstraction of the earlier writing into different components. Rather than have all the markings around four staff lines the modern version had three sets of staff lines to indicate different information. It was much more compartmentalized for the sake of clarity. I wonder what Haraway would say about our more modern version of music notation that has created boundaries. Would she be more supportive of the earlier notations where all the information mixed together? Perhaps she would acknowledge that the modern form of notation can express more information than the earlier version but would support unconventional music scores like Schafer’s which break the boundaries of standard notion.    

Professor Tian’s talk did not specifically address gender but in passing he made a comment about how men do not have the vocal range to go high. We have had many discussions about how dependent can we be on biology and how much of science is social. His comment made me wonder how much of a person’s voice is determined by biology and how much by social pressures. I thought of Nick Patera, youtube sensation because of his ability to sound like a woman singing. He definitely challenges the idea that men cannot be sopranos. Tian said himself that what we think of as in tune is a social construct. Applying that to the sound of a person's voice, could how we expect a male/ females voice to sound actually effect the sound they produce? This kind of thinking ties into Barad’s argument about the interaction of experiment and measurement; both effect and determine one another.



Amophrast's picture

"Applying that to the sound

"Applying that to the sound of a person's voice, could how we expect a male/ females voice to sound actually effect the sound they produce?"

YES. I think shock value/a level of being impressed is definitely involved. It also reminds me of Greg Pritchard, who I could only re-find on youtube by searching "britain's got talent opera boy." (embedding disabled)

I am not really a fan of opera, but I love this song. It sounds entirely less impressive to me (almost ridiculous) when I'm not watching the video. The video seems to be more about performing the act than the musical outcome itself--I've heard more impressive versions of Nessun Dorma. Especially in the context of something like this show? A nation-wide talent show? Everything is about performance. In this way, a man impersonating a woman can be considered more valuable than a "genuine" woman, because of his gender defiance. So clearly all the women should be men and all the men should be women because that would make everyone more impressive all around. And those in between? Stupid binary.

(See his semi-final performance--it's...kinda over the top:

" seems disturbing that a once solely creative human action is becoming more and more likely to be replaced with technology. Whatever happened to singing within your own range?"

On this note, I wanted to mention that people have been using technology to alter human voice for a LONG time:

Castrato/castrati singers are popularly associated with opera and catholic boys' choirs, but they've apparently been around since the Byzantine empire, says Wikipedia. Boys would be voice trained to be beautiful, incredibly singers, but then hormones completely ruined that. Puberty was considered to "break" their voices (very intense connotations there). Solution? Eunuchs! So basically... for the sake of preserving a trained voice that produced beautiful music (information?), bodies (gender) would be modified through castration (technology). I think the way that technology has changed is kind of incredible--less scarring, literally and figuratively, but not as beautiful in my opinion. Castrao made it seem as if it was so natural, rather than singers with synthetic voices.



jlebouvier's picture

I agree with both of you that

I agree with both of you that Haraway would support the form of notation that provides the most information. I do not like the idea of notation personally though. Yes, notation allows for the reproduction of music as the composer originally meant it to be. Thinking about it from an artist's perspective makes me think about notation takes the creaitivity out of music though. As Professor Tian was saying, some notation goes to a point that leaves no room for interpretation. That may be the composer's intention, but I feel like music should be different for each person.By removing a singer or musician's ability to change and be unique then the creative backbone that makes music wonderful is also removed. If every note and second of a song is written down and unchanging then what is the point in having a human read/play the piece of music? Professor Tian also talked about this, and it seems disturbing that a once solely creative human action is becoming more and more likely to be replaced with technology. You can already hear technology replacing the human voice on the radio. Almost every singer who is popular today has some kind of computer voice changer in their songs. Whatever happened to singing within your own range? What will become of all of the arts if this strict mode of production continues?

shin1068111's picture


The first point you are making in your post is interesting and I definitely agree with the fact that Haraway would support unconventional music scores like Schafer's, which definitely breaks the boundaries of standard notion. As you also mentioned, I do not think Haraway would be against of the modern version of notation. As professor Tian mentioned, the earlier forms of music notion does not contain enough information for the interpreters that it could be sang in so many different ways and I do not think that is what Haraway is suggesting.

I appreciate your second point where you are addressing gender that I did not really think of during the presentation where the focus was on the information and decoding. Your point reminds me of one of my male friends who had a really high pitch "girly" voice biologically, but tried to speak with lower pitch "manly" voice. Therefore, I would say that a person's voice is first determined by biology, but if the voice does not "fit in," the person will try to re-shape one's voice to socially "fit in."

Again, I really appreciate the connections you found between professor Tian's lecture and this class. Your post made me think more deeply about the lecture, looking at various aspects of music.

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